About the Utility Reform Project
Created in 1984, the Utility Reform Project (URP) has represented Oregon ratepayers and the environment in dozens of proceedings before the courts, the Legislature, the Public Utility Commission, and other government bodies. URP’s goals include:
> Placing control of electric utilities into the hands of the customers and their elected representatives.
> Protecting ratepayers from unjustified utility rates and billing practices
> Reforming the entire system of utility regulation and ownership, so that efficiency is rewarded and waste is penalized, instead of the reverse
Since 1984, URP has intervened in over 40 electric utility and telephone utility rate cases before the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC). Alone among public interest groups, we testified against the takeover of PGE by Enron in 1997:
"Protecting Oregon ratepayers from complicated shell games will be an entirely new and more difficult task for the PUC. . . We question whether the mostly meaningless promises in the `Stipulation' are worth placing Oregon ratepayers in harm's way."
At the OPUC, the takeover was also opposed by Lloyd Marbet, Nancy Newell, and Larry Tuttle URP also was the only organization (along with Marbet and Tuttle, represented by URP counsel) to appeal the OPUC’s approval of the Enron takeover to the Oregon courts, where we eventually lost in December 2000.
Unlike other public interest groups, we did not take money offered by Enron (like the $30,000 for NW Environmental Advocates, $470,000 for other groups). Unlike the Citizens’ Utility Board (CUB), we did not sign the “Memorandum of Understanding” which called for the prompt approval of the Enron takeover of PGE:
All Parties to this MOU recommend that the regulatory authorities to whom this MOU is submitted give their prompt approval to the Enron/PGC merger . . .
The MOU was signed by CUB, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northwest Conservation Act Coalition, Nature Conservancy, NW Environmental Advocates, Renewable Northwest Project, and other groups.
We are also the only group trying to get Trojan nuclear plant profits out of our rates. We filed suit in 1995 and, along with CUB, won in the Oregon courts in 1998. We also helped refer to voters a statute passed by the Legislature in 1999 (and signed by Governor Kitzhaber) that would have retroactively overturned the court decision and upheld the OPUC’s 1995 order to charge PGE ratepayers $304 million in profits for Trojan. CUB then agreed with Enron/PGE to a “settlement” that provided for a $227,000 payment to CUB but saddled ratepayers with no less a financial burden that if we all had lost in the courts! We continue to fight this “settlement.” which the OPUC staff, under oath, testified in July 2001 had the result of raising PGE rates in Oregon by $25.7 million in the current year, above and beyond the charges for Trojan contained in the 1995 OPUC order that the Oregon courts have ruled to be illegal.
We have also:
► appeared before several committees of the Oregon Legislature to oppose bills detrimental to ratepayers and to propose constructive changes
► challenged actions by the Bonneville Power Administration to give away federal resources that should belong to the people
Here are some of URP's activities:
1. URP is currently challenging the legality of a "settlement" agreed to by the Citizens Utility Board of Oregon, under which Portland General Electric Co. (PGE) is charging Oregon ratepayers over $300 million in profits on the dead Trojan nuclear power plant, in violation of Oregon ballot measures passed in 1978 and 2000.
2. In 1995, URP challenged the legality of the firm power contracts offered by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to several aluminum companies and other industries. Unfortunately, the federal courts upheld the contracts, which in 2000 and 2001 caused BPA to pay these industries over $1.5 billion not to take the power covered by the contracts.
3. In 2001, URP is challenging the new round of unlawful contracts signed by BPA with these same industries, under which BPA is paying them over $1 billion not to take power that would be too expensive to use for producing aluminum in any event. This is the biggest corporate welfare giveaway in the history of the Pacific Northwest.
4. In 1986, URP challenged BPA's decision to "settle" litigation with 5 private utilities by giving away to them huge quantities of low-cost power from federal hydroelectric projects.
5. After 7 years of litigation in teamwork with Lloyd K. Marbet, URP in 1991 reached a settlement reached with Pacific Power & Light Company (PP&L), which required PP&L to:
> Drop its claim to be legally entitled to charge Oregon ratepayers an additional $105 million to pay for its abandoned Skagit 1 & 2 and WPPSS 5 nuclear power plants.
> Contribute $2.2 million and raise another $2.6 million for the "I Have a Dream" Foundation (Oregon) to provide tutoring and support during grades 5-12 and guaranteed 4-year college tuition payments for 700 students who graduate from North and Northeast Portland schools in low-income areas.
> Contribute $2 million and raise another $1 million for the Neighborhood Partnership Fund to develop housing, employment, and services for low-income residents in North and Northeast Portland. The Fund then created Albina Community Bank, which successfully serves the area.
> Devote a total of $7 million to complete within 3.5 years comprehensive weatherization (including shelter repair), compact fluorescent lighting retrofit, seismic foundation examination, solar energy evaluation, and indoor radon monitoring for 7,000 low-income residences in Northeast Portland and elsewhere in Oregon, including Albany, Corvallis, Roseburg, North Bend, Grants Pass, Medford, Klamath Falls, and the surrounding areas, expanding PP&L's existing programs by 700%.
> Contribute $400,000 to Oregon Legal Services (OLS) to provide service for low-income persons, including migrant workers.